Botswana’s Okavango Delta is an incredible game-viewing area, and although game drives are a big part of what ‘game viewing’ is about, there are so many other ways of seeing this incredibly unique landscape. Boat and mokoro excursions, walking safaris, and helicopter safaris are all possible here, each giving its own unique insight into the Okavango Delta’s ecosystem. Game drives aside, these four ‘other activities’ bring excitement, variety, and diversity to any safari experience.
The best activities to try in the Okavango Delta
Here’s YZ Wies’s guide to activities, besides a traditional game drive, that you could try in the Okavango Delta, looking at both water- and land-based adventures:
Boat and mokoro excursions
Wies and his aunt during a recent boat cruise
Wies and his aunt in a mokoro
Boat and mokoro excursions are a huge part of the quintessential Okavango Delta experience. With an average of 2.5 trillion litres of water flowing into the Delta each year, large parts of this incredible wilderness are inaccessible by vehicle, which is why boats and mokoros are such an essential part of what you do here.
Excursions by motorboat are obviously the easiest way to travel fairly quickly, and far into the swamps and channels of the Delta. Providing a completely different perspective to motor vehicle-based safaris, the emphasis on boating is often seeing the Delta’s rich and abundant birdlife. This is not to say, however, that other wildlife is no longer a factor. Huge bull elephants are abundant in the waterways, while rarer species like the elusive sitatunga are best seen in areas with plenty of water. Due to its impressive numbers of fish (tigerfish, tilapia, and various species of catfish can all be found here), the Okavango Delta also offers ample opportunities to head out by boat on a fishing expedition. All fishing is done on a catch-and-release basis, ensuring the continued conservation in this area.
The first thing you might ask about mokoro excursions is, ‘What actually is a mokoro?’ Well, the humble mokoro has for generations been the primary mode of transport for the people who call the Okavango Delta their home. A mokoro is simply a dugout canoe, which is propelled by pushing with a pole from the stern of the boat… much like punting! Mokoro were traditionally built from the single trunk of a large tree, but with conservation efforts in mind they are increasingly made from fibreglass. Unlike motorboat excursions, a mokoro outing is a much slower, and certainly quieter, experience. Although the distances covered are comparatively small, being on a mokoro allows you to drink in the serene beauty of what is around you. It’s also a brilliant mode of transport for avid birders, while smaller and more elusive amphibian species like the reed frog are also found here.
Walking safaris are often a great way to stretch your legs a bit while on safari. On the whole, safaris involve a lot of sitting (in a vehicle, on a boat, or in a mokoro) and equally a lot of eating (breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, snacks at sundown, and dinner). This often leads to safari-goers wanting to be a little more active, which is what walks are perfect for! Besides ensuring a bit of movement, walks are also absolutely fantastic for seeing the Okavango Delta from a completely different perspective. Whereas the focus of game drives tends to be big game, a walking safari concentrates much more on the bigger picture overall. Animal tracks and sign, burrows, nests, and flora are just some of the things you’ll learn more about on a walk. All in all, this is just an amazing way of seeing where you are in much greater detail.
Motorboats, mokoros, and walking are arguably the three main activities besides game drives, but helicopter safaris are also an increasingly big part of how the Okavango Delta is explored. Even more so than by motorboat, helicopters allow passengers to fly deep into the Delta to areas that are rarely visited by another human. Besides of course the incredible views of this watery wonderland, there is still plenty of big game to be seen. Large herds of elephant and buffalo are particularly prevalent, but even the rare sight of a hippo under the surface of the clear waters of the Delta is not at all unusual from a helicopter!
The reality is that the Okavango Delta has so much more to offer than just game drives! My recommendation would always be to throw yourself into as many activities as possible while in the Delta, as this will ensure the most diverse and ultimately most fulfilling safari experience in this quite wonderful corner of the African continent.
If you’re looking to book a safari to Botswana and want to know more about the Okavango Delta, such as where to stay, when to go, and how to experience a mokoro excursion or water-based safari, please don’t hesitate to contact us here. Alternatively, do take a look at our blogs below for more inspiration: